Local 770 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, one of the largest unions in Southern California, announced in Los Angeles on Thursday that it has set up a hot line to help illegal aliens gain amnesty under the new immigration law.
The announcement and similar efforts by other unions are the first indications of how active a role organized labor plans to play in the effort in Southern California to win amnesty for members who are in the country illegally.
Rick Icaza, president of 33,000-member Local 770, said bilingual operators will advise people on their rights and advise them to stay away from the Immigration and Naturalization Service until detailed regulations have been published by the agency.
The operators will also advise people to avoid "unscrupulous lawyers" who are charging high fees and promising that they can get them amnesty right away, which is impossible, Icaza said at a news conference at the union office.
Representatives of several other unions--including the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers, the International Ladies Garment Workers and the United Auto Workers--said they are setting up similar immigration assistance programs.
Icaza said that 60% of the 4,000 packinghouse workers his union represents are illegal immigrants. He said a considerably smaller percentage of members working in retail stores are in the country illegally.
He said the new law presents "an opportunity to bring thousands of illegal workers out of the shadows. Once workers who qualify under the law obtain amnesty and eventual American citizenship, they will be able to fully participate in the social, economic and political life of this country."
Jim Rodriguez, a Food and Commercial Workers business agent, said the union will help anyone who calls, not just its members.
The amnesty provision of the immigration reform bill signed into law earlier this month by President Reagan grants temporary legal status to illegal aliens who can prove they have resided in the United States continuously since at least Jan. 1, 1982. Those people granted temporary legal status would be eligible to apply for permanent legal status and, eventually, citizenship.
Rodriguez said that the union had sent letters to businesses where it represents workers reminding them that the "employer sanction" provisions of the new immigration law do not apply to employees hired before Nov. 6, 1986, the effective date of the act.